Exact Sciences Outlines Pipeline of Diagnostics for Deadliest Cancers

Exact Sciences Outlines Pipeline of Diagnostics for Deadliest Cancers

Exact Sciences’ ambitious plan to commercialize molecular diagnostic tests for several of the deadliest cancers is starting to come into focus.

Fresh off announcing a partnership with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to co-develop multiple blood-based diagnostic tests for lung cancer, Madison, WI-based Exact shared new details last week about planned molecular diagnostic tests for cancers of the pancreas and esophagus. Products targeting the latter two diseases will be developed with researchers at the Mayo Clinic, following the five-year extension in February of Exact’s research and development agreement with Rochester, MN-based Mayo—a pact that already yielded Cologuard, an FDA-approved, stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer.

“We plan for Exact Sciences to be synonymous with the early detection of cancer, and we’re on our way to achieving this goal,” CEO Kevin Conroy said during a presentation Thursday in Madison, where the company gathered investors and financial analysts for an annual company update. (Disclosure: Exact Sciences is an Xconomy underwriter, but our coverage is determined independently by our editors.)

Still, bringing the pancreatic, esophageal, and lung cancer products to market could take more than five years and $400 million in research and development spending by Exact, according to early projections by financial analysts with Robert W. Baird & Co.

Let’s unpack the company’s roadmap for each cancer:

—Pancreatic: When someone gets diagnosed with cancer in the pancreas—a gland in the abdomen that plays a role in digestion and regulating blood sugar levels—it’s generally considered a death sentence. There are 49,000 new cases diagnosed and more than 40,000 deaths from pancreatic cancer each year in the U.S., according to American Cancer Society data. It’s the fourth-leading cancer killer in the U.S., but is projected to jump to second by 2030, Exact said.

The five-year survival rate is less than 5 percent for patients diagnosed after symptoms appear, Exact said. But some researchers believe that patients’ chances will improve if they are diagnosed before symptoms appear, when doctors can surgically remove some or all of the pancreas before the tumors grow too large and the cancer spreads.
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